It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
"Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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This is a brilliant film. I have not seen a another film that successfully shows how someone creates a work of art, especially a literary work. This film does it brilliantly, largely by quotations from the poem read very effectively by James Franco, who plays Ginsberg. Acted out interviews illuminate many things and the trial itself is extremely involving to watch. Even the animated portions we see while we hear parts of the poem work well. It's a remarkable film about artistic creation and how the artist must be allowed to use his own words and to use language that expresses his meaning fully, not language that is inoffensive to some imaginary reader.
Franco, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban, Jeff Daniels are all at their best, and seem truly committed to the project.
You don't even have to be a fan of Ginsberg, or know much about who he was to enjoy this. I was really impressed, one of the best films of this year, but it will likely be ignored by many.
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